Missing My Second Monitor

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with family in Florida over the holidays. Unfortunately, I had to do a little work while I was down there. Sitting at my mother’s dining room table trying to meet a deadline brought back memories of trying to finish term papers on the old electric typewriter. (Yes, I am that old!) As archaic as that seems, I actually felt like I was in the Dark Ages last week because I was working on my laptop without the benefit of my second monitor.

About five years ago, Desiree and I treated ourselves to second monitors, which seemed like an indulgence at the time. But I can tell you, once you go to two monitors, you’ll NEVER want to go back to one. I would imagine this is true for most professionals, but I think it is especially true for e-learning professionals. Let’s look at an example.

When I am making edits to a course, here’s what I typically have open at once:

  • Document with changes from the client, perhaps an email, an Excel spreadsheet, an online list, etc.
  • Authoring files, such as Lectora, Articulate, or Captivate files
  • Photoshop and/or Power Point to make image edits
  • WavePad to make audio edits
  • Word to refer to or make changes to the storyboard

In addition, I might have source documents, clarifying emails, list of questions to go back to the client, Outlook, and other windows open. I can easily have 6 to 8 windows open and actively being used.

On a single monitor, there is a lot more switching between windows, which is not just time consuming, it’s confusing. In trying to find the window you want, you can forget what you are trying to do. (Yes, I am that old!) In addition, I believe it increases your cognitive load. Because you can’t see everything you need at once, you have to juggle more in your working memory. But with two monitors, I can position the four windows I need the most to be visible at the same time, making it much easier to move back and forth making changes and updates.

If you already have a second monitor, then I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you don’t, then go get one!! Now!! You’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Now if you need to convince your boss to pay for one, check out these studies citing the increased productivity from using a second monitor. (Although shouldn’t my word be good enough?)

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins is the co-owner of E-Learning Uncovered, as well as Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

8 Responses to “Missing My Second Monitor

  • mstiles6804
    12 years ago

    Hi Diane,
    Great post, I could not agree more with you having 2 monitors has made a big impact on my productivity. Having 2 of the same size I think is very important. I move between my home office and an open office work envrionment, at home I have 2 22″ monitor but when I move to the open work environment I have a 24″ monitor and then only my laptop as my second screen, it’s ok but the difference in size is frustrating when trying to read and moving windows back and forth constantly resizes everything.

  • Lnardolillo
    12 years ago

    YES!! I started using 2 monitors about a year ago at work, and I’m trying to figure how to get two monitors hooked up at home. The desktop I use at home does not have 2 video ports, and I don’t use a docking station at home…yet.

    • Gina McDaniel
      12 years ago

      You may need a new video card that can accommodate two monitor outputs or that can accommodate a video splitter (I believe the cable will come with the video card but I’d have to look into that solution more. That’s what they did at work and it seemed a rather clunky solution rather than just a video card that had two output ports).

  • I’m tickled that I finally found someone else who uses WavePad. I find it so refreshingly easy to edit audio in; even though it’s extremely simplistic–or, I guess, because it is!

    • Diane Elkins
      12 years ago

      Audacity gets most of the e-learning press (mainly because it’s free), but agree that WavePad is easier to figure out. I also think its noise filtering features are better than Audacity’s.

  • I LOOOOOVE my second monitor. It’s incredible how much more productive I am with the ability to spread out a little more. I have two monitors but I’m seriously considering going for three. In addition, you’ll often find that big companies, hotels and office buildings throw away perfectly good monitors. Keep an eye out!

    • Diane Elkins
      12 years ago

      I’ve had that same thought about a third monitor! In fact, I guess I already do have a third, sort of. I have an ipad stand next to the second monitor. On days when I’m doing heads down production, I’ll often turn off Outlook on my main computer and then just use the iPad on the stand to keep an eye on email.

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